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New Escapist Column! On the Horror of Joss Whedon’s “Justice League”…

I published a new column at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League this week, it seemed like an appropriate opportunity to take a look at the original theatrical cut of Justice League, which remains one of the worst blockbusters of the past decade.

What makes the theatrical cut of Justice League such an insidious film isn’t just what it is, although it is terrible on its own terms. It’s what the film represents. It’s a very conscious and very deliberate erasure of a distinct vision of an expensive creative project, in the hope of serving reheated nostalgic leftovers that fans might gorge themselves upon. It’s pure, empty, vacuous content – a pale imitation of what other companies do better, without a single unique perspective of its own.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

67. Gran Torino (#157)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every second Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode between them.

This time, Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino.

Korean War Veteran Walt Kowalski lives out his life in the deteriorating suburbs of Detroit, disconnected from his family and whiling away his days drinking beer on his porch. Initially aggressive and belligerent towards the Hmong family who moved in next door, Kowalski finds himself drawn into the lives of the two youngest children, forming an unlikely bond and forcing him to reassess his opinion of the community.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 157th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Time to Worry About Snyder’s Superman?

Well, the reviews for SuckerPunch are in, and they are… less than encouraging. I could have great fun going through them looking for pithy put-downs, but let’s just agree that it looks pretty bad. The film was a critical and commercial flop, generally agreed to be the handiwork of a director who was allowed to run completely wild with Warner Brothers footing the bill. As inevitably happens after a disaster like this, people are wondering about the director’s next film – it would be a hot topic even if it wasn’t relaunching Superman, but the amount of weight that Warner Brothers is putting on Superman makes it a downright explosive little issue. So, do I believe that Snyder can do it?

No Snyde(r) remarks...

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Todd Philips & “Unrated” Editions: Directors Above All?

Todd Phillips, the director of Due Date and The Hangover, has come out blasting Warner Brothers for releasing extended “unrated” cuts of his movie without his input or consent. He makes a strong case, and threatens to take it to the DGA:

Warner Bros., they’ll make your movie; your movie does well, and they want to create an unrated version, which is entirely against DGA rules because it’s not your cut. And they can’t call it the ‘Director’s Cut’ — they’ll call it ‘Unrated’ or some ridiculous term. Really all it is, is about seven minutes of footage that you cut out of the movie for a reason.

I’ve stuck for directors’ visions in the past – I mourned the passing of Del Toro’s Mountains of Madness or hoped that someday Frank Darabont’s Fahrenheit 451 might (against all odds) make to screen. Studio interference on films like Brazil, for instance, is almost unforgivable – and I was delighted to see justice was eventually done to Blade Runner. However, I can’t find myself entirely agreeing with what Phillips says here.

Let me tell you a spiel...

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When Average Just Isn’t Good Enough: Do Better Directors Have Further to Fall?

I watched Cop Out at the weekend, and I have to admit it was just about okay. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t consistently funny. It had moments of wit, but they were separated by pointless and boring scenes. It had a talented cast, but didn’t do anything with them. I wouldn’t describe it as a bad film, but I wouldn’t advise you to rent it (or otherwise seek it out). However, there was a stronger and more bitter taste in the air. There was something especially disappointing about the film, because of its director. Cop Out was a Kevin Smith film, and it actually felt a bit worse than it arguably should have because I knew the director was capable of so much more. Am I the only one who tends to be more disappointed by an average film from a talented filmmaker than perhaps even a bad film from an untalented director?

Feels like a bit of a cop out...

 

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Non-Review Review: Nine

I have to admit, I greatly enjoyed Nine, even if it never really felt substantial or fulfilling. I’m not convinced that the film works as a story, but it does provide director Rob Marshall the opportunity to put together setpiece after setpiece, each choreographed with impeccable skill. Indeed, given his ability to stage glitzy sequences and the sheer volume of talent in front of the camera, coupled with lavish production values and a mesmerizing setting, it’s easy to forgive Nine its faults – the most glaring of which is that nothing really happens for the first three-quarters of it, and then stuff happens which doesn’t necessarily feel earned in the last quarter. Still, it looks damn pretty and the soundtrack is quite catchy.

Now that's a showstopper...

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Who Do You Trust? Directors and Faith…

I remarked last week that I wholeheartedly trusted Christopher Nolan when he decided not to recast the Joker role in Batman 3, despite the fact that the character was rumoured to play a large in the planned sequel to The Dark Knight. However, it got me thinking as to what my reaction would have been had he announced that he was recasting the role, and that it was essential to the finale of his planned trilogy, and that (having worked with his star) Heath might even understand. I don’t know – I probably would have been a little skeptical and uncertain; I may even have hesitated at the suggestion. I accept, however, I probably would have trusted him on it. It’s a scarce commodity these days when the internet has given everyone a voice with which to trumpet their opinions and everybody has an opinion on everything. So, when should we trust a director? When do I trust a film maker, no matter what they choose to do?

Now that's trust...

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Do We Give Too Much Kudos to Established Directors?

There was (as ever) a rather interesting piece in the Guardian a few weeks back which suggested – what with Alice in Wonderland and Shutter Island coming out within weeks of each other and dominating film discussion in March – perhaps we tend to focus too much on established directors like Burton and Scorsese.

Because it’s one thing for a studio to take a project and market it with such frenzied hyperbole that for a week or two seeing it becomes all but obligatory for anyone wanting to remain a la mode. It’s quite another for film-goers to convince ourselves we need to see that same project through an increasingly forlorn belief in its director as a still-vital and relevant force. Whatever the implications of Burton’s Alice may be for exhibitors and all that newly-installed 3D technology, the nuts-and-bolts issue here is surely the length of time any once-great film-maker is given in the cinephile heart purely on the basis of dusty triumphs a decade or more in the past.

I thought it only fair to wait until I had seen bother of those big films to comment. Being entirely honest, I don’t think it’s entirely reasonable to lump Burton and Scorsese together as some sort joint proof of that assertion. In fact, I’d argue the two are very different sides to the same coin.

Is Burton picking his own creative bones dry?

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